This past Tuesday in class (The Concordia MBA) my thinking was challenged (as happens in most classes I teach). I used to believe and teach that everyone was a leader and needed to learn leadership skills, attitudes and behaviors so that they could lead well. One of my students challenged that thought and wondered whether or not some people should not/would not/could not be leaders. After some discussion around that topic, someone else chimed in with this phrase: “Everyone will be given leadership opportunities; not everyone will lead.” The light bulb went off for me – this is what I really had believed all along and had not yet put into words. Everyone WILL be given leadership opportunities (parent, friend, manager, team member, etc)…but not everyone will take the responsibility and burden of leadership upon themselves. It’s not even a matter of leading badly – some people just will not lead, and that just might be a tragedy.
What happens when people who have the opportunity to lead choose not to do so? Here are a few thoughts:
- They miss the opportunity to influence others in a positive way
- They miss the opportunity to practice leadership, which will come their way again in the future
- Others might be harmed in numerous ways
- Others miss out on the opportunity to reach the group’s shared vision
- The community misses out on any gifts the person has to offer
- The community has one less person they will turn to in the future to help solve issues
One of my sayings in the past has been that I would rather have no leadership than bad leadership…and I still believe that. In the absence of leadership, someone else will fill the gap. When bad leadership exists, people and organizations are harmed and, as one of my students noted the other evening, it is often difficult to get rid of people who lead poorly (another topic for another blog).
One of the roles that leaders should take on is preparing others to lead when the opportunity arises. Concordia University Texas’ mission of developing Christian leaders exists for that reason, because leadership opportunities will present themselves to everyone…the question is whether one is ready to lead and then accepts that responsibility when it is given to them.